AROUND THE WORLD: Armed Americans Arrested In Haiti As Violence Grips The Nation

As anti-government protests rage on in Haiti, 5 American military veterans reportedly in possession of automatic weapons, pistols, satellite phones and drones have been arrested.

The revelation is striking within the context of anti-corruption protests that have gripped the nation, leaving multiple people dead. The protests have targeted President Jovenel Moise who stands accused of misappropriating development loans made by Venezuela to Haiti after 2008. He has allegedly done this whilst 60% of the population live on less than $2 (£1.53) a day.

Yet the protests also are reported to have had a distinct anti-American imperialist shade. Flags of the United States have been burned in the streets and protesters have alleged that Moise is a puppet of Washington. Head of the protest group Bronson told reporters, “We would like to declare a complete split-up with the US, we are fed up with the American occupation, we can’t tolerate it anymore”

The claims and qualms of the Haitian demonstrators do have credence and not just from the revelation that there are armed Americans on the island. In 2004 right wing paramilitaries, trained by the United States military, overthrew liberation theologian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a brutal and bloody coup. The coup was led by head death squad director Guy Phillipe who is currently imprisoned after being found guilty of taking bribes from drug smugglers.

US meddling in Haiti is however, nothing new. The US, albeit slightly begrudgingly, backed and financially supported the despotic regime of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier who acted as a viscous bulwark against communism. The tyrant made clear his anti communist credentials stating…

“Communism has established centres of infection . . . No area in the world is as vital to American security as the Caribbean . . . We need a massive injection of money to reset the country on its feet, and this injection can come only from our great, capable friend and neighbour the United States.”

Papa Doc embarked on this anti-communist crusade through the use of the notoriously heinous murder squad known as the Tonton Macoute, which has a near mythical presence due to their directorship from Vodou leaders. It is believed that 60,000 Haitians were murdered in acts of state terror that received financial support from the US. The extermination squad became infamous for their public displays of their murdered victims as a warning to Haitian society.

Intervention by the American war machine goes back even further than the regime of Papa Doc. From 1915 to 1934, US military forces occupied Haiti fearing that anti-American sentiment in the country endangered US economic imperial interests, especially the Haitian American Sugar Company. US president Woodrow Wilson, who ironically made a famous speech listing the right to self-determination as an essential term for peace, wished to destroy the Haitian constitution and replace it with one that guaranteed American financial control.

America, it seems, has always had a vested interest in Haiti. It is highly unlikely with the current instability that the US would refrain from involvement in the nations politics. The discovery of armed white foreigners in a different land harks back to the plots of neo-fascists in the 1980 Bolivian Cocaine Coup, the 1981 “Bayou of Pigs” Operation Red Dog and the 1994 Bophuthatswana crisis. With protests showing no signs of stopping and anti-American sentiment gaining traction, the meddling of the American Empire in Haitian affairs cannot be discounted. For history has shown that the US is ingrained in the very roots of Haitian politics.

Sam Glasper is TPN’s foreign affairs commentator and studies at Manchester Metropolitain University.

AROUND THE WORLD: Venezuelan President Maduro Claims the KKK Rule The White House, Here’s Why He’s Right

In a BBC interview held this week, president Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela claimed that Donald Trump is an open white supremacist and that the Ku Klux Klan run the White House. When he made this claim, he seemed rather bemused that he had to explain this to interviewer Orla Guerin. Indeed, when you look at the bloody history of ingrained white supremacy of the United States, Maduro’s claims are not as controversial as they first appear.

An exploration of American fascism has already been touched upon in an earlier TPN article, but with Yankee chauvinism at yet another staggering high under Trump, the need to analyse the violent white supremacist nature of American exceptionalism has become vital.

Klanist thought has remained dominant in domestic American affairs. Proof of this can be found in the continued discrimination of black people in the United States. Old Jim Crow habits reared their heads in last years mid terms where, in Georgia, 50,000 mostly black votes became invalidated. Before the November election, Secretary of State Brian Kemp was sued for having found to be suppressing minority votes. The events are a reminder of America’s draconian voting laws that have, seemingly in certain areas, not moved on since the literacy tests of Jim Crow.

Whilst the KKK have died off as America’s dominant white supremacist paramilitary, their practices can still be found today in America’s heavily militarised policed force. The past few years have seen multiple controversial shootings of African Americans in the US, which has been followed by a lack of accountability or conviction of offending officers. Recent shootings and lack of prosecution are reminiscent of the era of Jim Crow where alleged murderers of black people would regularly be found not guilty by all-white juries. This issue is deep seated in the American justice system. Even today, all white juries and their allegedly racially biased decision making have remained prevalent. An earlier TPN article has outlined how US police assassinated Black Panthers and collaborated with Neo-Nazis to commit appalling acts of mass murder with impunity. Clearly domestically, Maduro’s claims of an America dominated by Ku Kluxism rings true.

Trumps own white supremacy has been examined in another TPN article, but whilst his far right flirtations (enabling of fascist violence of Charlottesville and sharing of Britain First Islamophobic posts) need to be showcased, they are hardly anything new. The United States was built on the idea of Manifest Destiny, an imperialist notion that holds that the US was destined by God to expand its dominion and spread capitalism. It is the very foundation of American fascist exceptionalism and its widespread propagation that directly led to the genocide of America’s indigenous populations.

Maduro’s claims are most evident in the blood-soaked history of American foreign policy. This is where it becomes obvious where Maduro’s thinking, with regards to the current coup in Venezuela, comes from. In Chile, the CIA (whilst “making the economy scream”) backed the neo-fascist Fatherland and Liberty Nationalist Front paramilitary group in an attempting to sabotage the democratically elected socialist Allende government. In Bolivia, the US forces used the “Butcher of Lyon” and Gestapo functionary Klaus Barbie to track down and execute Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. In Indonesia, the US embassy handed out lists of suspected communists to far right death squads who embarked on the genocide of over half a million people. And in perhaps the most staggering and shady example, the US heavily participated in NATO stay behind operations in Italy and Turkey. Operation Gladio, as it was known, led to the Strategy of Tension model where US backed neo-fascist terrorists who would commit disgusting acts of terror and blame them on radical left groups.

The list of examples of American support for foreign fascists is endless. Even recently, as detailed in a TPN article, it was discovered that American Nazi riot participants had been trained by Ukrainian Nazis whom have previously found themselves in possession of Pentagon weapons and used them to commit pogroms against Ukraine’s Roma population. The history of homicidal white supremacy is astounding and supports Maduro’s claims to the utmost extent.

With all this in mind it should hardly be surprising that there is truth to Maduro’s claims, which no doubt seem outlandish to the naive supporters of American “democracy”. The useful idiots and stooges of US imperialism should note America’s viscous white supremacy when it comes to the coup in Venezuela. The coup is being partly directed by Elliot Abrams who is currently being questioned by Congress over the role he played in propagating and covering up the El Mozoto massacre which featured the mass rape and murder of children as young as two, as outlined in a previous TPN piece.

Whilst it first may seem spurious to claim that the United States (which is allegedly the bastion of democracy around the globe) is run by the Klan, the practices and thought processes of American elites from the foreign policy propagators to the CIA, police, and justice system all point to a narrative that the US is gripped by an ideology of Klan-like white supremacy. As of today, this very grip seems all the more vice-like and unshakeable.

Sam Glasper is TPN’s foreign affairs correspondent and studies Politics at Manchester Metropolitain University.

AROUND THE WORLD: Political Prisoners Across Turkey Continue Hunger Strike As Repression Continues

More than 700 Kurdish and leftist political prisoners and 300 Kurdish people worldwide are on an indefinite hunger strike as prison conditions continue to worsen for leftist militants currently imprisoned in Turkey.

The hunger strike was first started by the formerly imprisoned HDP MP Leyla Guven in protest over the increasing isolation of the Kurdish Workers Party leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Guven herself was imprisoned following her public critique of Turkish military actions in the predominately Kurdish town of Afrin.

Worldwide solidarity has been shown to the strike especially within Germany where Left Party and Communist Party of Germany activists joined with Kurdish protesters in numerous cities across Germany. Here in the UK, Imam Sis (a Kurdish rights activist) has been on hunger strike for 52 days and has been supported within his new home of Wales by Liz Saville Roberts MP, of Plaid Cymru. Over in France, Leyla Guven was awarded honorary citizenship of Paris after a motion was tabled and supported by French leftist opposition parties including the French Communist Party and France Insoumise.

The strike has been primarily driven by a desire to end the isolation and horrific conditions faced by Abdullah Ocalan who has been imprisoned since 1999. Since 2011 his lawyers have been refused access to him and have attempted to appeal over 700 times. This is not the first hunger strike in support of Ocalan. In October 2012 several hundred Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike for 68 days until Ocalan demanded for it to be stopped.

The hunger strike comes amid a wave of repression by the Erdogan regime and its benefactors against not only Kurdish activists but also against any form of opposition including numerous radical leftists. It also comes as a part of Turkeys long running history of political violence between right wing Salafists and nationalists against communist revolutionary organisations and pro-Kurdish groups.

Turkish politics lives in the shadow of the years of leadership in the late 70’s that cost the lives of around 5000 people from rival left wing and right wing paramilitaries. The scars of the war can still be seen today as this week saw the imprisonment in Germany of key Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front leader Musa Asoglu who is accused of masterminding the bombing of the United States embassy in 2013 as well as numerous attacks against Erdogans right wing Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party.

Asoglu’s Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group (commonly known as the DHKP-C) is part of the numerous armed opposition groups who have long opposed Erdogan and Turkeys authoritarian rightist governance which has been long plagued by numerous military coups and NATO’s stay behind operational forces known as the Gladio Organization. A 38 year old Maoist peoples war has also gripped the country mainly in the east Tunceli region. The current hunger strike can be seen as part of a long running, although not necessarily united, struggle by Kurds and leftists to topple the Erdogan regime.

The ongoing hunger strikes success hinges on the solidarity shown to oppressed groups in Turkey. A hunger strike in the year 2000 by numerous communist organisations with a total of 816 prisoners in 18 prisons against the holding of political prisoners in isolation eventually succeeded after the martyrdom of 122 people, some of whom died by self-immolation. The Turkish opposition faces a formidable challenge against the Erdogan government but its continued resolve will no doubt see it remain committed to ending the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

AROUND THE WORLD: With Imperialism Knocking At It’s Doorstep, Venezuela Must Be Uncritically Defended

46 years ago, the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende was deposed and butchered in a bloody coup with the assistance of the United States intelligence services. The coup led to a vengeful reprisal by reactionary forces in Chile against working class citizens who had participated in Allende’s attempts to build a socialist society. In the most notorious example, a death squad nicknamed the “Caravan of Death” flew via helicopters from town to town to torture and execute imprisoned leftists. It is reported the squad “…cut eyes out with daggers. They broke their jaws and legs.” The way the coup was conducted from the heavy sanctions to the use of counter-revolutionary protest to the eventual targeted assassination of working-class activists all show similarities to the current situation in Venezuela.

Much has been written in the western political scene about the Maduro government and the previous Hugo Chavez led administration’s Bolivarian Revolution. It goes from complete condemnation by neo-conservatives to lukewarm support by certain social democrats. However, with the current threat of an imperialist coup in Venezuela directed by Elliott Abrams (a man who “lavished praise” on the military battalion in El Salvador that committed the El Mozote massacre which featured the rape, throat slitting and hanging of children as young as two) it should be obvious to anyone with even the slightest belief in anti-imperialism that Venezuela must be defended. With military intervention looming, now is not the time to critique the Maduro government but to give it full-fledged support to its defence.

Already the ground has been set for what would be inevitably, a gruesome and violent coup. The recent electoral victory of Maduro’s United Socialist Party has been declared a sham despite the fact that it was the opposition that opposed UN observers coming in to monitor the election. With regards to the supposed “fraudulent election” Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard stated that “I was in #Venezuela as an international observer for the election and met with oppositional figures who were freely campaigning against #Maduro Its also not possible to “stuff ballot boxes” as ballots are electronically twinned with voter ID & fingerprints”. From this, the talking point of an alleged sham election is merely just an excuse to justify intervention.

Similarly, the crisis of food and medical shortages has been blamed entirely on Maduro despite the fact that the US has placed crippling sanctions on the country that are said to amount to “crimes against humanity”. This is once again history repeating itself with the US directly destabilising a Latin American socialist government via economic means. In Chile, Nixon had ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream” in order to overthrow Allende. This same tactic is clearly being demonstrated right now in Venezuela.

For whatever faults the Maduro government is said to have, there is a reason for its past and present electoral success. Its reforms have enormously benefited the poor in Venezuela including a housing programme that has delivered 2.3 million houses to working-class Venezuelans.

Meanwhile, the opposition is made up of the most reactionary segments of Venezuelan society. Chiefly white and middle class, the Venezuelan opposition forces on the streets showed their true face when they stabbed, burned alive and lynched a black man they suspected of being a government supporter and a “thief”. Any successful coup against Maduro will lead to a campaign of rampant, discriminatory mass-murder in a similar vein to the genocide of peasants in Guatemala and working class people in Chile after US-sponsored coups occurred in those states.

The American Empire is naked in its push for regime change in Venezuela, just as grossly as it has done in Libya, Honduras and countless other nations across the world that do not subscribe to Yankee Capitalism. With the potential for deadly intervention still on the cards, Venezuela’s anti-imperialist government must be defended at all costs. Otherwise, the blood of working class people will flow in the streets of Caracas.

How America Whitewashed And Destroyed The Black Power Movement, 90 years on from the birth of MLK.

This week marked 90 years since the birth of one the most famous figureheads of the civil rights movement; Dr Martin Luther King, a southern baptist who rallied against the United States’ draconian racially segregated society. As a radical preacher who rallied against inequality, housing crises, poverty and the Vietnam War, King was an outcast in the political scene. Now he has become a staple of modern America. Streets are named after him, holidays are celebrated and his image has been re-purposed to that of an American hero. Before his martyrdom, this was not the case.

In a 1966 poll,  63 percent of Americans had an unfavourable opinion of King. By 1987, almost 75 percent of Americans had a favourable rating of King. What is the reason behind this rapid turnaround? The answer is his murder at the hands of a white supremacist combined with his mostly passive from of resistance. This alleged passivity is what makes him the go-to radical icon for the American establishment. This is a whitewash, it defangs Kings movement which included many militant blacks willing to take on white supremacy head on. King himself was especially critical of whites and the role they played in upholding white supremacy stating “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”

Yet despite this, on Twitter both the CIA and the FBI wrote in remembrance of the civil rights leader. The hypocrisy is astounding. King was a victim to the FBI’s COINTELPRO, a programme that targeted and sought to destroy radical groups in the United States. Believing King to be a communist, the FBI reportedly sent him a letter which King interpreted as a suggestion to kill himself.

King is not the only victim of the US governments targeting and later whitewashing. Perhaps even more mind-boggling, the US’s canonisation of Malcolm X is remarkable considering X’s militant black separatist and Islamic virtues. The US government eventually awarded X a postage stamp, despite similarly surveilling X and sowing discontent within the Nation of Islam which would eventually lead to his assassination.

The case of the Black Panthers is another one of bewilderment. In her performance at the Super Bowl, Beyonce paid a homage to the Black Panthers on the world stage for all to see. What is probably forgotten is that the Panthers were an armed group of Marxist-Leninist’s who supported the DPRK.  Any sort of homage to them at Americas premier sporting event is startling to say the least. Namely also due to fact that the Panthers were viciously targeted by COINTELPRO. In perhaps the most heinous example, the young 21 year old chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party Fred Hampton was murdered by armed police who shot over a hundred rounds into his room whilst he slept. He was later found to have been shot twice in the head at point blank range in a clear act of state murder. His corpse was then unceremoniously dragged out of the apartment whilst white officers smiled.

The FBI’s lack of self awareness in the tweet mentioned earlier is not a mistake. The whitewashing of the Black Power movement after its destruction is a deliberate act to fit in with the US establishments narrative of history. In moments like this, it is important to remember those acts and victims of establishment white supremacy which are forgotten. On this point, this year also marks the 40th anniversary since the Greensboro massacre where multiple black Maoist workers were shot at and killed by Klansmen and Neo-Nazis with police collusion.

When the establishment seeks to re-purpose the message of King, X and the Panthers, it must be reminded of its role in the destruction of the Black Power movement and be held to full account for the deaths of its protagonists. Only then can the white supremacy that King, X and the Panthers rallied against start to be successfully combated.

The World’s Biggest Strike: Why 200 Million Indian Workers Decided To Strike

 

Around 200 million workers are estimated to have participated in the worlds largest general strike action in India against the “anti-worker and anti-people policies of the Modi government,”. The strike, which was organised by the Centre of Indian Trade Union who was assisted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has led to the detention of communist party leaders in West Bengal and Kerala where communist activists shut down transport services.

The strike has come amongst a notable growing trend of tension within India between the Modi government and the RSS far-right paramilitary against left-wing progressive activists in the country. Within Kerala, a communist stronghold state led by the Left Democratic Front, tensions have run especially high. Political murders have increased in recent years with the rise of both Hindu nationalist sentiment and communist party activism. Beatings, stabbings and hackings have dominated Kerala party politics.

The strike itself has seen the visible presence of a vast array of workers from factory workers to bus drivers to bank workers. It can be seen as a vast show of strength by the leftist linked Indian trade unions protesting against the recent neoliberal reforms of the Modi/BJP administration which has included the privatisation of the transport system as proposed in a recent government bill. Recent job losses from the economic crisis in India has led to rising support for the various movements that occupy the Indian left.

Indian left-wing politics is lead by its militancy. Amongst the strikers at the various demonstrations were cadres from the Maoist CPI (ML) Liberation, a former guerrilla outfit now involved in organising landless farmers and street vendors. The struggle in the rural areas over land rights has been especially militant over the years. The Indian government is currently fighting an on-going 50-year insurgency from Maoist rebels known as the Naxalites. The group has in more recent times come to prominence after it assassinated 24 Indian National Congress leaders in a single attack.

The strike has continued in certain areas since its callout by union heads. In Mumbai, transport workers are on an “indefinite” strike against the municipal government-owned Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking. 32,000 workers in the city have shut down the transport service that usually accommodates over 4 million people.

The strike will no doubt worry president Modi who is only months away from running for re-election. Accusations of fascism and sectarianism have haunted the president who has been accused of repealing India’s secularist past by inflaming tensions between Muslims and Hindus. In 2002, the BJP government refused to intervene in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat which led to the deaths of over 2000 Muslims

With the strike uniting both rural and urban workers and official unemployment rising to 7.4 percent, the radical left in India has built some solid ground to challenge the anti-working class Modi government and their fascist para-militarist allies. Coming elections will be telling but the success of parliamentarian-ism has been questioned by young militant communist radicals who can now be seen at the frontlines of the struggle. Whether further revolutionary sentiment can be developed within India remains to be seen. However, with violence and militancy growing, revolutionary fervour appears to be expanding day by day.

A Revolutionary Socialist: 100 Years Since The Assassination Of Rosa Luxemburg

 

This past week has seen the remembrance and commemoration of one the worlds greatest Marxist thinkers, the Polish-born revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. In Germany, an estimated 20,000 people came out in dignified fashion to remember the communist leaders of the Spartacist Uprising, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and the multiple leftist workers who were tortured and murdered by right-wing death squads when the uprising fell.

In Berlin, leftists of various radical affiliations solemnly paid respects to the two lost leaders of the working class, placing flowers at their graves and a note which read  “Peace, bread, roses, freedom”. Communists from across Europe came out to commemorate the event including British communists who ran the headline “Red Rosa, the communist eagle”, Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin’s description of the budding revolutionary.

Rosa Luxemburg’s popularity and important place in left-wing circles can be owed to her pioneering role in revolutionary politics in a scene mostly dominated by men. A notable critic of World War 1, she became a founding member of the Communist Party of Germany. Her brutal death, beaten tortured shot and thrown in a lake, by the Freikorps (the far right paramilitary forerunners to Hitlers Brownshirts) mean that many radicals see her as a lost leader of the working class in Europe. Whilst she disagreed with the Bolsheviks on various issues, her solidarity to the international revolution led her to help lead the Spartacist League and attempt to establish a Soviet government in Germany.

Her murder and subsequent martyrdom lay not only at the hands of the far right but also the centre-left Social Democratic Party who sanctioned the Freikorps to brutally put down the workers’ revolt. The state-sanctioned assassinations of Liebknecht and Luxemburg led to an irreversible split between the social democrats and the communists with both parties pitted against each other throughout the history of the Weimar Republic. The lack of a united front became one of the factors that led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in the 1930s.

To date, the SPD has never officially apologised for its role in the murders despite evidence that Gustav Noske, the minister of defence at the time, signed off on the murders instead of imprisoning the leaders. After effects of the killings of 1919 can still be felt today in German politics. Die Linke, the descendant of the former ruling socialist party of East Germany, accuses the SPD of betraying the working class now as it did then.

Rosa Luxemburg’s impact on politics cannot be downplayed. Her contributions to Marxist theory on issues such as imperialism and the national question are considerable. Her writings most famous statement of “Socialism or Barbarism” rings true today as it did in the ’30s with the rise of far-right forces and decaying capitalism. Rosa Luxemburg message is as factual now as it was when she wrote her thesis’ and through this acknowledgement can her memory be best remembered. Her sorrowful demise at the hands of fascists and opportunists cannot compromise her work as an empowered Jewish female spokesperson of the working class.

A true revolutionary, her message lives on.

AROUND THE WORLD: Venezuelan President Maduro Sworn In For 2nd term, Warns Against Potential Coup

Image result for nicolas maduroVenezuelan president and leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in for his second term following his electoral victory last year with 67.7 percent of the popular vote. His swearing in ceremony comes at a time of great strife for the region as right wing leaders in Latin America are accused of assisting the United States in destabilising Venezuela.

In his speech, the president stated that “We have a powerful enemy in US imperialism, but far worse is those who are corrupt and damage our country”. He also told his crowd of supporters that “Venezuela is at the center of a global war waged by US imperialism and their satellite states,” adding “Here I am, ready to take our country forward. Here we are with our democracy and our people.”

The speech targets the so-called Lima Group, an alliance of 14 right wing American states including Bolsonaro’s Brazil. With an active reactionary opposition still operating in Venezuela, Maduro has reason to be worried with notable counter revolutionary governments now in power in bordering nations Brazil and Colombia.

Bolsonaro, the newly elected president of Brazil,  is one source for special concern for the socialist Great Patriotic Pole led government in Venezuela. In his brief tenure as president so far, Bolsonaro has purged the civil service of hundred of suspected leftists and communists who do not share his far-right ideology. With a reactionary in the mould of the infamous General Pinochet now ruling a nation of over 200 million people, Maduro no doubt intends to combat potential coup attempts with increased vigour.

Similarly, Colombia holds a bastion of problems for the Maduro government. 85 ex-rebels belonging to the FARC organisation have been killed since the peace deal at the hands of right wing death squads who still operate with near impunity in Colombia around the Venezuelan border. Colombian armed forces have likewise, pursued leftists with bloodthirsty intent recently killing Marxist insurgent commander Guacho after his assassination of three Ecuadorans.

Maduro remains one of the select few leaders left from the “pink tide”, the elections of numerous populist and social democratic leaders in Latin America. Since then a counter revolutionary backlash has eclipsed the continent through a rising tide of violent, middle class based protests leading to the return of neo-liberal social conservative governments in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. It comes with a global trend of rising right wing movements from the rise of electoral fascists in France to the violent neo-Nazis operating militias in Ukraine, training like minded American Nazis.

Judging from his speech, President Maduro has no intentions of succumbing to US hegemony in the region which certainly intends on regime change. The US has made no secret of its disdain for the Bolivian Revolution in a similar vein to its dislike for the Cuban communist state. With destabilising forces rocking Venezuela including an attempted assassination of Maduro and a helicopter terrorist attack, Maduro will have to wither the storm by any means if he seeks to continue former president Chavez’s social revolution.

AROUND THE WORLD: Israel Bombs Syrian Capital, Damascus on Christmas Day as Turkish Invasion Looms

On the 25th of December, Israeli warplanes struck Damascus during Christmas celebrations allegedly targeting Hezbollah senior figures and strongholds in the city. It has been reported that Syrian government air defences destroyed 14 of the 16 missiles fired by the Israeli Air Force during the strikes.

The aggressive strikes come as US president Trump has announced that his administration will pull troops out of Syria. The decision comes as Trump has harked back to his anti interventionist campaign rhetoric as part of his “America First” plans. The resolution has already led to defence secretary James Mattis’ resignation as United States foreign policy has seen a seemingly remarkable change of pace compared to the last 50 years of hawkish interventionist foreign policy.

With the US withdrawal also comes a loss of support for the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) whom US forces have been assisting against the so-called Islamic State. It has thus also led to the emboldening of Erdogan’s Turkey whose military have long since wished to displace and attack the Syrian Kurds whom they see as connected to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group who have participated in a decades long guerrilla conflict against the Turkish government.

The bombing of Damascus can be seen as a play by Israel to take a leading role in Syrian civil war as the US pulls out. The hawkish display of power is no surprise to anyone who knows Israels interventionist military history which includes the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The conflict saw Israel topple leftist pro Palestinian forces and attempt to remove Syrian influence from Lebanon. It also helped lead to the creation of Hezbollah, the very same force Israel now seeks to combat in Syria.

Hezbollah have taken a large role in the war on the side of the Assad government. Its a relationship that goes back to the Lebanese civil war where Hezbollah and Baathist backed militias fought the Israeli backed rightist Phalange for control of the nation. Hezbollah is a commanding military presence, as shown during its strategic victory against the IDF in the 2006 Lebanon war. Its intervention on behalf of Assad cannot be emphasised enough with regards to the continued survival of the Syrian Arab Socialist Baath Party. It has recently played a leading role against rebel forces near the occupied Golan Heights during the Beit Jinn offensive and spearheaded the capture of Abu Kamal from the so-called Islamic State.

The withdrawal of the US from the region and the display of Hezbollah military prowess had no doubt worried Israel. The events reminisce in the happenings of the Lebanese civil war where America similarly withdrew for the conflict, after a suicide bombing killed 241 US troops, and Hezbollah gained a decisive edge in the closing chapters of the 15 year war. Now, Hezbollah has yet again proven itself decisive as the Assad government asserts itself day after day.

Israel meanwhile has been in somewhat of a crisis over the last few months. Its reputation has once again been tainted after a series of shootings of Palestinians during Gaza border protests earlier this year. A corruption scandal has emerged against Israel’s long running rightist PM Benjamin Netanyahu and a tactical victory by Gazan armed factions last month has directly led to the collapse of the Likud led right wing governing coalition. With fresh elections around the corner, the Netanyahu administration has no doubt attempted to claw back some legitimacy with these recent strikes on the Syrian capital.

The situation in Syria remains unstable. With the US withdrawal, a Turkish invasion against YPG militants in the north now looms and a deal seems to be on the horizon between Kurdish and Baathist forces. A more determined Israeli intervention into the conflict will unquestionably have untold consequences for the future of the region.

AROUND THE WORLD: Mexican President, AMLO announces budget and reaches agreement with US as migrant crisis continues

December has seen the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly referred to as AMLO) who won a landslide electoral win in Mexico. The leader of the National Regeneration Movement has long been regarded as a left wing populist and can be seen as a latecomer to the “pink tide” of left wing electoral victories that swept Latin America in the 2000’s. Promising a range of commitments from inequality to crime to corruption, he now also faces a different issue as numerous migrant caravans from Central America have entered the country.

Many of the migrants are from Honduras, escaping the consequences of a US backed coup in 2009 and fleeing from persecution from death squads. The United States long running “war on drugs” has not stemmed the rise of gangs and drug squads who still extol influence in many Latin American states. The result has been a high profile shift of migrants seeking asylum in both Mexico and the US.

Meanwhile AMLO’s rhetoric has been progressive on the issue sharply contrasting with US president Trump who has become infamous from his anti immigration rhetoric. Trump has recently stirred up his nativist voting base once again, against the migrant caravans even implying that troops will shoot resisting migrants. His rhetoric has so far been matched by US immigration policy. Last week saw the tragic and entirely preventable death of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and shock in the custody of U.S. border enforcement officials. The case is a clear example of the result of the draconian US immigration system, indicative of the world wide treatment of migrants and shows the inhumanity of the US administration.

As a result of this, Mexico and the US have agreed on a $35.6-billion development plan to curb migration. The plan which seeks to fund the central American states and thus improve the livelihoods of many low income citizens, has however been met with scepticism as most of the United States’ contribution is not new funding. Also with most of the money coming from private sector loans, it is unlikely to address the long terms problems that neo-liberalism and the “Washington Consensus” have created for the region.

AMLO’s election can however, be clearly seen as yet another reaction to the austerity policies set out by the IMF, the US and the WTO on Latin America. Despite this, the president has presented a rather sober budget, pursuing a goal of social democratic income reform whilst calming the markets. This has resulted in a rather limp reformist budget which sets a target for a primary surplus of 1% of gdp after an expected 0.8% this year. There were plans to spend 125 billion pesos on scholarships for the young but the programme will now get a little more than a third of that. The budget also allocates 60 billion pesos of new money for a universal pension for old people, 20 billion pesos less than originally proposed.

AMLO will no doubt seek to fulfil his promise of transforming Mexican society but held in the restrictions of social democracy and with heavy US economic pressure coming from above, the president will no doubt have to change his game as migrancy continues to rise and the “Washington Consensus” remains so far unbroken in the country.